Despite eight years of security sector reform (SSR) advocacy in Indonesia, basic democracy policy objectives and professional, accountable military and police services have yet to be achieved. This paper, published by the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, examines civil society organisations’ (CSO) efforts to promote SSR in Indonesia from 1998-2006. While CSOs need to re-formulate their SSR advocacy strategies, the government should comprehensively evaluate SSR laws, policies and implementation in order to improve security sector accountability.
Beginning in 1998, Indonesia’s reform era has seen passage of stronger constitutional human rights protections and separation of military and police functions and structures. Legislation has also provided for improved army and police professionalism, institutional performance and accountability. Police have adopted community-based policing; new laws expand press freedoms.
CSO advocacy has contributed to these legislative gains and has facilitated greater public understanding of SSR. International support has also helped create the spirit of political and security sector reform. However, in recent years, the reform agenda has been increasingly ignored; progress has been stalled by political interests and conflicts between security sector elites.
The following obstacles continue to impede SSR progress in Indonesia:
- International financial support for SSR has shifted to supporting the security sector’s capacity to fight terrorism. CSOs express concern that the war on terror is jeopardising democratisation and reform.
- Political enthusiasm for SSR has waned. While there has been some openness to CSO engagement with SSR, public access to, and influence on, parliament and government has hit a glass ceiling.
- Reform actors have different understandings of “security” that lead to disagreement. Most legislative SSR debate focuses on defence and military issues. CSOs argue that SSR must be related to the broader democratisation process and integrated into a human security framework.
- Security actors continue to resist civil political authority; civil authorities are still dependent on the support of security actors to gain and maintain power.
- CSOs must contend with regional “strong men” who often control regional security actors. They also contend with legislative activity that is not always consistent with the spirit of SSR.
- CSOs continue to be critical of policy and legislative processes, the substance of proposed and passed legislation and the lack of monitoring and enforcement of new laws.
Consolidation and re-formulation of CSO strategies are urgently needed in order to follow up or to design future SSR agendas. Other recommendations include:
- Parliament needs to indicate greater commitment to CSO engagement in SSR.
- Government should oversee legislated reforms to ensure that demands advocated by CSOs and the public are not hampered or neglected.
- All SSR legislation should be assessed for its effectiveness. Current SSR legislation should be improved.
- All SSR bills that have not been passed must receive serious attention by Parliament and the Executive.
- International political support is still needed for SSR advocacy conducted by the government or by CSOs.